This item was produced by a reporter in the Schieffer School of Journalism's Basic Reporting class.
The Acts 29 Network is bringing micro-churches to Fort Worth neighborhoods, and pastors hope their congregation will make people like church more.
The Acts 29 movement is a network of churches across the world. The movement derives its name from the 28 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible. The 28 chapters layout the model of the Christian church. The idea is that the (unwritten) 29th chapter of Acts is the continuation of the early church in modern times.
These church plants simulate the other 28 chapters as closely as possible by implementing early church roles and conduct at a micro level.
“It’s really a grass roots effort,” said the pastor of The Rooted, Nick Ostermann.
The City Church, The Rooted and The Paradox are all Acts 29 churches that meet and serve in Fort Worth neighborhoods. The Acts 29 movement started with Mars Hill Church in Seattle 10 years ago. The church has grown to over 400 “plants” as pastors plant new churches around America, and around the World.
The Rooted was the first Acts 29 church plant in the area, making its home in south central Fort Worth more than two years ago. However, the heart of their church may meet in the house next door to you.
“Acts 29 is not a denomination, but more of a theological network,” Ostermann said.
Many people have never heard of the small, bold church plants, however the Pastors express their united goals of serving the people in the community.
“There are big churches here, but for us in Fort Worth, we have smaller plants, it’s all about the city groups,” Ostermann said.
The City Groups or “Villages” are a defining mark of the Acts 29 church movement. Though each church has a different title for the conglomeration of church members meeting at houses and serving the community, they remain similar in purpose. Micro management of the church is a unique intention of the Acts 29 movement.
“There is more responsibility to the church members, it’s all about equipping the city groups for whatever God has placed on their hearts,” said Ostermann.
City groups range from students at TCU to families with children at Tanglewood and Paschal.
Ben Connelly, Pastor and Church Planter of The City Church, says the way they focus on community outreach is different from many churches. Outreach is managed on a much more micro level. It’s the idea of making your neighbor dinner as opposed to donating food to a food pantry.
“The heart of our church are the members, it’s not ‘come and see’ on Sundays, but also sending people out to live on mission in the city.” Ostermann said.
A distinct trait of the Acts 29 movement in Fort Worth is that none of the churches have a building.
The Rooted meets in a Baptist church’s building each Sunday.
“We are church planting churches so we all hold to the idea that the best way in our post Christian culture to see the gospel go forth is not to build big institutions but to have communities of gospel change people who are living as ministers of the gospel.” Ostermann said.
Jim Essian, pastor of The Paradox, says the church history in Fort Worth points to a revolution in the way its citizens see church. To him, it was only a matter of time before people started to see church differently.
“We’re minimizing the church, there are holes. ” said the pastor of The Paradox, Jim Essian.
For Ben Connelly, planting The City Church in Fort Worth was a bit of a gamble. Connelly has been a professor at TCU for three years, and led a former campus ministry.
“I felt I got really good at managing Christians, but really bad at making disciples,” Connelly said.
In January 2010 Connelly doubled his day job as TCU professor and new pastor of The City Church.
“The scariest thing running through my mind was, ‘in a Fort Worth culture, is anyone gonna be on board for this’?” Connelly said.
Connelly hopes that people will see the members of The City Church in action and see church in a new perspective.
“People may see us and might not hate church quite as much anymore,” He said.
Connelly grew up Methodist and bible church denomination and joined a Methodist Congregation. Now, he feels The City Church pulls pieces of each church to make a compilation that he calls “the overlap.”
The Paradox church meets downtown at Van Cliburn Hall every Sunday morning at 10:30. The Rooted meets at College Avenue Baptist Church Sundays at 9 a.m., and The City Church meets at Four Day Weekend Theatre on Sundays at 5 p.m.